The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association held a press conference Tuesday to discuss redistricting in Manhattan Chinatown. Manhattan Chinatown leaders spoke in opposition of both draft maps for State Senate by the Independent Redistricting Commission.
The redistricting proposals would break Chinatown into two different State Senate districts.
“The Asian American community has to be kept intact under any circumstances whether it is State Assembly, State Senate, Congressional or City Council District,” said Justin Yu, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, during the conference.
Yu said the plan to divide Manhattan Chinatown, especially the State Senatorial line, will break their voices into pieces.
The conference was held to make the Manhattan Chinatown community and all New Yokers, at large, aware of the proposed redistricting and the negative impacts the plans would have on Manhattan Chinatown and to urge people to attend the Independent Redistricting Commission hearings to testify against the proposed redistricting, said Mae Lee, executive director of Chinese Progressive Association.
The Independent Redistricting Commission hearings for New York County begin on Nov. 10.
“We are fighting to keep our community together,” Yu said. Adding, “United, we have served the Chinese community through many ups and downs, but we persevered through it all. We will now get through this struggle and take a stand against the drawing of a line to pull us apart.”
Possible impacts of the divide
Lee said the Independent Redistricting Commission proposals would negatively impact Chinatown for different reasons.
If the plan goes through, and Chinatown Manhattan is divided, Manhattan Chinatown will become a smaller part of two separate districts. Lee said Chinatown community leaders are worried that if Manhattan Chinatown becomes a small part of two different districts, as opposed to being a larger part of one district, people of Manhattan Chinatown will have less of a voice and less power to make an impact.
“The reason why that is negative and not good for us is because it dilutes our political power. It also means we get less attention,” Lee said.
Manhattan Chinatown used to be divided in two separate districts until 1990 when it became one district.
“It’s like we have gone back in time,” Lee said. “Things are not moving forward but stepping backwards.”
Manhattan Chinatown is a single community that belongs together in one district, Lee said.
Along with Yu and Lee, other Manhattan Chinatown Community leaders including Ken Shieh, chief strategy officer at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center and Charlie Lai, executive director of Chung Pak Local Development Corporation, attended the conference at 62 Mott Street.
“Chinatown will not allow a line to be drawn between us,” Yu said. “If anything, the line stops here.”